The thing that will help this club the most would be getting their injured third baseman back.
That’s easy stuff, what’s next? Logically you’d have to assume someone in the outfield needs to step up and step in. Ka’ai Tom hasn’t been around long enough to give up on if you’re a baseball executive. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to believe in him, or I have to believe his walks and couple hits have been enough to stem the tide.
The Pirates can’t have expected both Dustin Fowler and Anthony Alford to clear waivers, in fact I have two sources telling me they absolutely didn’t, but regardless the two remain in the system as depth.
I could argue that the Pirates should have just cut ties with one or both of them, but the fact is they didn’t and value them as at least capable of playing the position and potentially figuring things out. Problem is, they’ve ‘figured things out’ at the AAA level before. So when they inevitably do it again I can absolutely see the club calling on either of them to come back up.
Any of them could figure things out to a degree, but if we and they for that matter are honest, none of them is a real, long lasting answer.
The next real answers internally are probably Travis Swaggerty and Chris Sharpe. Swaggerty is in his first week of baseball above Single A, it would actually be unfair to Travis to bring him up now, and Sharpe has had strikeout issues that he needs to work on.
Internally, the outfield looks like a revolving door to me the rest of the season. In other words, I highly doubt we’ve seen the last of Fowler or Alford.
Kevin Newman has struggled and this situation will also be addressed by Hayes returning. At the very least his playing time is going to take a hit because no matter what you think Erik Gonzalez is, he’s handily outplayed him. I see Newman dropping back to what Gonzalez was supposed to be, a utility guy who plays 2 or 3 games a week spelling others. If he catches fire, you’ll see he and Gonzalez flip flop roles, maybe a couple times the rest of the way, but the fact is the lineup get’s better when only one of them needs to be in it, at least for now.
Look back to the minors for someone to step in and take over this spot and you have to look at Cole Tucker, hell I’ve even seen him suggested as a solution in Center. Tucker needs to hit, and here’s the thing, he’s had 2,383 plate appearances in the minor leagues and he’s hit .265. That would be just fine if it translated to MLB but it just hasn’t as of yet, at some point this season the Pirates will need to decide what to do with him.
Is he going to help this lineup? I mean, as of right now I’d have to say not really. If you just want good defense, ok, but he isn’t even as good in that department as Gonzalez. 7 seasons in MiLB for a number one pick is a heck of a long time to still be talking about his body filling out and adding power. Seems to me if that was going to happen, it would have, but I must keep in mind this management has only had hands on him for 2 years.
I think if everyone is on the up and up what they really want is change. Problem is, it probably isn’t going to be for the better if we’re dipping into Indianapolis’ roster looking for it. I mean, I don’t want to see Kevin Kramer again do you? He can play outfield a bit, he can play 2B, he’s also never brought what he has done in the minors to the MLB level in his limited shots at it.
What about trades? I’ve seen folks suggesting the Pirates should trade some of their middle infield depth or even pitching for some outfield answers.
It’s no secret the Pirates will be trading some guys, like Anderson, Cahill, and a host of other possibilities, but when they do, they’ll be looking for exactly what they’ve been hunting. Young, high ceiling players that are 3-5 years away from impacting MLB. And that’s just from the Pirates end, teams who are looking to add players like that aren’t looking to return talent that’s close or in MLB.
Even if they did, what good would that do? If the Pirates are trading from strength it stands to reason that strength will weaken and if that team won’t use a guy, they have to be completely stacked at the position hopelessly blocking the player.
The bottom line is pretty simple, moves for now aren’t happening. This is what a rebuild looks like and while I think they should and could have done better in the off season to bolster the outfield at this point that ship has sailed. If I told you they could leave things as they are and assure a top 5 pick in the draft or fill a hole and that drops to 10-15, what have they accomplished?
There is no quick fix, if there were Neal Huntington might still be here.
I didn’t believe Travis Swaggerty had a real shot of making this club during 2021. I’ve just seen this movie too many times to buy him rocketing right over AA, killing it in AAA and jumping again.
What Travis has going for him beside being a talented player is that the MLB club has so little out there he may have to do little more than show competency. Now, if I’m the GM, I see little benefit to starting his clock this year, but trust me, they had no intention of calling up Bryan Reynolds when they did either and that situation was just as bad. Again, different management group, but they had every intention of him keeping a seat warm, playing a couple games and going right back down.
Instead he hit, then hit some more. He made it impossible to send him back and who knows, maybe Swaggerty has that in him too. If you remember, the Pirates at the time had Jason Martin ranked above Bryan, and he ended up being so highly thought of that he was unceremoniously cut this off season.
Help is on the way, the thing is by design it isn’t going to be ready this year. At least not much of it.